Replica of the original Portinuncula
I just read Omer Englebert's St. Francis of Assisi: A Biography. This is the best biography of Francis that I know. I'm a huge Chesterton fan, but Chesterton's biography of Saint Francis doesn't isn't even half as good as Englebert's work. I'd even say that G.K. Chesterton's bio on Saint Francis is Chesterton's worst book. I may get in trouble for saying that. Oh well.
One of the most fascinating things about the life of Saint Francis is the Portiuncula indulgence that he obtained from the Pope. The Portiuncula (or "little portion") is essentially the mother church of the Franciscans.
Tradition states that Portiuncola was built under Pope Liberius (352-66) by hermits from the Valley of Josaphat who hid relics (burial clothes) from the grave of the Blessed Virgin at this spot.
This dilapidated little chapel was given to St. Francis by the Abbot Monte Subasio in 1208. Francis restored it as was his custom.
Saint Francis asked that this chapel be indulgenced, and the Pope granted his request. This was a amazing privilege since only Rome, Jerusalem, and Santiago in Spain were the sites of plenary indulgences. This act of the Holy Father raised this small "little portion" to one of the most important pilgrimage shrines in the world.
Saint Francis died lying naked on the floor of the Portiuncula in 1226.
While in San Francisco, Joy and I found the copy that has been constructed there. It was so beautiful. Here's a photo we took:
The Portiuncula indulgence can still be gained on August 2 of every year. I'm sure some of our Franciscans can tell us more about this. I'm still learning.